Cadence Weapon kicks off tour at The Grad Club

Canadian rapper talks art-rap, new album and North American tour

Cadence Weapon will be performing at the Grad Club on Friday, Sept. 28. 
Photo from Wikipedia

When Cadence Weapon takes the stage at the Grad Club on Friday night, he’ll welcome criticism.

Setting off on a North American tour, Weapon will be performing music from his self-titled fourth album, Cadence Weapon, released in January. He calls the music art-rap—music that’s open to study and analysis.

Weapon’s used to critique.

His interest in art-rap stems from his previous work as a music journalist for Pitchfork, his year spent as Poet Laureate of Edmonton, and his published book of poetry Magnetic Days.

In his past work, he grew to appreciate harsh editing and constructive criticism from professional editors, art critics, and audiences. Art-rap allows him to mix together the highly visual and subjective aspects of physical art with his literary skills and make work that can be debated.  

Weapon’s new album took him two years—writing over 80 songs, but only including 12.

“Making an album is definitely a time intensive process once you go through writing, recording, mixing, mastering, and then it comes to getting the artwork done and the videos and the vinyl pressed. I put a lot of thought into it, a lot of depth into my songs,” Weapon said.

On average, the albums he self-produced in the past took a year to put together.

When he started making his self-titled album, he was moving to Toronto and adjusting to life in a new city. It prompted a bout of self-reflection, adding to the autobiographical elements of the album. Taking head from his literary background, he began writing what he knew best.

Starting with the track, “Own This,” Weapon pays tribute to his late father. The song starts with a voice recording of his father, Teddy Pemberton, speaking on his radio program called The Black Experience in Sound which played on CJSR-FM in Edmonton, Alberta.

His father is heard saying, “If I don’t get you, my son will.”

This style is deeply thoughtful and intentional—Weapon wants people to watch his shows and music videos with the same critical approach of viewing a painting in a gallery because there’s more to his music than just “club beats.”

Aside from taking inspiration from his personal life, he also looked to visual artists he idolized growing up.

“The visual component for my music is really important to me,” Weapon told The Journal.

“Growing up I was really inspired by Spike Jones and Chris Cunningham, and all those auteurs of the ’90s who elevated videos into something more like short film. And that’s something I really strive to do with my videos.”

The album artwork is inspired by the same kind of elevated artistic experience as Weapon’s music videos. This allowed him to integrate the element of physical art into his lyricism.

Designed by an old friend from Montreal, the album depicts the view of a club from the stage and audience simultaneously.

The top half shows an animated Weapon rapping onstage; the bottom depicts an audience dancing along. It includes speech bubbles too which feature inside jokes and references to the album.

“I wanted it to be similar to Wilfred Limonious dancehall record covers and the funk-psychadelic album covers from the ’70s. I wanted it to have that exciting feeling because I grew up looking at those.”

Weapon’s literary past has certainly shaped his approach to his work. His admiration of decade-old vibrant album artwork, the craft of poetry, and his hunger for criticism, culminate to create the self-titled art-rap experience called Cadence Weapon.

After all, art-rap is open to critique.

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